Australian Open 2012: Top 10 Men's Competitors to Watch out for Next Year

Delores Smith-JohnsonCorrespondent IIIJanuary 29, 2012

Australian Open 2012: Top 10 Men's Competitors to Watch out for Next Year

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    The 2012 Australian Open has reached its end and preparation begins for 2013.

    It was a great tennis tournament filled with much joy and much disappointment.

    Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka are experiencing a great deal of joy, as they were crowned the 2012 men's and women's singles champions.

    However, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova are sure to be disappointed as they each came so close to winning a second title in Melbourne.

    Though the year is just beginning, the 2012 participants are more than likely preparing for their return in 2013.

    This slideshow will look at the top 10 men's contenders for the Aussie Open championship next year.

    As always, comments and feedback are encouraged and welcomed.


    Let's begin.

Novak Djokovic (SER)

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    Current Ranking: No. 1

    2012 Australian Open Results: Winner (defeated Rafael Nadal)

    As a back-to-back winner of the tournament, all eyes will be on Djokovic to see if he can make it three in a row.

    Will he, or will the crown be passed on to another player?

Rafael Nadal (ESP)

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    Current Ranking: No. 2

    2012 Australian Open Results: Final (lost to Novak Djokovic)

    There's no doubt, Rafa Nadal left it all on the courts of Melbourne during this year's tournament, but, unfortunately, he was not able to get the win that he so desired. For the second straight year, he's the runner-up to Djokovic.

    All eyes are sure to be anxiously watching to see if Rafa will be able to rebound and regroup, making it to his third straight final down under. And, if he does, will he be crowned champion in 2013?

    It's Rafa, and anything's possible. Stay tuned.

Roger Federer (SUI)

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    Current Ranking: No. 3

    2012 Australian Open Results: Semifinals (lost to Rafael Nadal) 

    Roger Federer still has the ability to win a Grand Slam. I know many are questioning this. However, as he showed in this tournament, he still has something in his tank.

    He exhibited great form on the court throughout the tournament and even playing against Rafael Nadal. There's something about closing that win out against Nadal for Federer. It seems as if Nadal is still in his head.

    And, giving credit where credit is due, Nadal was also in great form during this tournament, so Federer definitely had credible competition.

    He's won this tournament four times. A fifth win is not a far-fetched thought.

Andy Murray (GBR)

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    Current Ranking: No. 4

    2012 Australian Open Results: Semifinals (lost to Novak Djokovic)

    Andy Murray's inability to get that Grand Slam win is a mystery to say the least.

    Could it be more of his mental game versus his physical game?

    He has a great skill set, and he's one of the most physically fit players on tour. And, as an added bonus, he now has one of the greatest tennis players ever as a coach—Ivan Lendl.

    It seemed as if things were falling into place with a win at the Brisbane International and little competition through the Australian Open quarterfinals.

    Even in the beginning of his match with Novak Djokovic, Murray looked to have the match wrapped up. But, for some reason, he could not seal the deal—once again.

    Regardless, Murray has shown great improvement in his game thus far this year. Hopefully, he will continue this positive progression.

    And just maybe...he will return to Australia and win. 

Tomas Berdych (CZE)

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    Current Ranking: No. 7

    2012 Australian Open Results: Quarterfinals (lost to Rafael Nadal)

    Tomas Berdych has the skills to go toe-to-toe with the best on tour. And he has the wins to show for it.

    Remember Wimbledon 2010?

    However, he has yet to be able to hold it together on the big stage to capture a Grand Slam.

    He has knocked on the quarterfinal door two years straight in Melbourne.

    Will 2013 be the year he moves a little closer to the final in hopes of getting that first Grand Slam win?

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

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    Current Ranking: No. 6

    2012 Australian Open Results: Fourth Round (lost to Kei Nishikori)

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a player that gives it his all when he takes the court. Unfortunately, more times than not, he finds his winning rhythm but loses it, costling him crucial points and matches.

    He was looking very promising in this year's tournament until his match with Kei Nishikori—a loss that abruptly ended his trek Down Under.

    But because he's a fighter and very determined, Tsonga will be back next year, seeking to meet or exceed his best performance, which was an appearance in the final back in 2008.

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)

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    Current Ranking: No. 11

    2012 Australian Open Results: Quarterfinals (lost to Roger Federer)

    Though some time has passed since his wrist injury (and surgery to repair it) and his rectus injury, it seems as though Del Potro is still struggling to get back to his form when he won the US Open back in 2010.

    That's not to say that he did not do well in this year's tournament. However, to compete with the top contenders, he has to take his game up some more.

    Hopefully, he will continue to progress in returning to that 2010 form and will have a deep run Down Under in 2013.

David Ferrer (ESP)

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    Current Ranking: No. 5

    2012 Australian Open Results: Quarterfinals (lost to Novak Djokovic)

    David Ferrer is one of a kind. Enough cannot be said for this player's determination to play until every option is exhausted on every shot. He's the player who will cause his opponent to hit three or four more shots, when he was thinking just one more good one.

    That determination helped him to the quarterfinals this year where, though he lost, he made Djokovic earn that win. Surely, Djokovic left with battle scars.

    Though he was a little short of his best in the Aussie Open (he reached the semifinals in 2011), Ferrer has no doubt already started planning for his return and set a goal to best his best.

Bernard Tomic (AUS)

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    Current Ranking: No. 38

    2012 Australian Open Results: Fourth Round (lost to Roger Federer) 

    Bernard Tomic is one face of the next generation in men's tennis.

    Currently the highest-ranked Aussie player, Tomic is quickly proving himself as real contender on the court.

    At this year's tournament, Tomic made a huge statement when he defeated Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the No. 22 seed, in the very first round.

    He still has work ahead of him, but he's a very promising young player who certainly has a desire to do well in a tournament native to his homeland.

    Look for exciting tennis Down Under in 2013 from Tomic.

Kei Nishikori (JAP)

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    Current Ranking: No. 25

    2012 Australian Open Results: Quarterfinals (lost to Andy Murray) 

    Kei Nishikori is going to be the player to watch in 2013.

    Nishikori is beginning to define himself as a real competitor. As you may recall, he defeated No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals at the Swiss Indoors Basel tournament in 2011. He won the third and final set of that match 6-0.  

    He's simultaneously building momentum as he's developing his game. I would not put him in the final just yet, but I will project that he will go deep in the tournament.

    Nishikori discussions are going to become more and more common on the tour as time goes on.

Honorable Mention (s) : Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) and Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)

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    Lleyton Hewitt

    Current Ranking: No. 130

    2012 Australian Open Results: Fourth Round (lost to Novak Djokovic)

    Hewitt had a great run during this tournament. Lleyton has been on the court for a while. With time not on his side, being physically fit but susceptible to injury and having a desire to win his native tournament, it may well be enough with his innate skill set to secure that Aussie win.

    He has glimpsed the finish line, playing in the 2005 final. Now, he wants to cross the finish line with a victory.

    Mikhail Kukushkin

    Current Ranking: No. 92

    2012 Australian Open Results: Fourth Round (lost to Andy Murray) 

    Kukushkin was surely one of the biggest surprises in this year's tournament.

    To come out and hand defeat to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Victor Troicki and Gael Monfils was a tremendous statement by this player.

    Kukushkin is going to be a player to watch.